When Raphael Varane made the €10 million transfer to Real Madrid in the summer of 2011, the signing looked to be one for the future. The then-18-year-old had been promising in his performances with French club Lens, though his team was ultimately relegated.
Madrid made the swoop for the relative no-namer thanks to efforts fro Zinedine Zidane and they haven't looked back since.
Jose Mourinho is not known for developing youth players, but with regular starter Pepe's surgery, Raul Albiol's disappointing ability and Ricardo Carvalho's age, Varane was tossed into the fray. Fans didn't really know what to expert. Varane looked sharp in the few chances he was given and had one impressive back-heel goal last season, but that was all he had shown.
Come the first leg of the Copa del Rey against Barcelona and Varane immortalized himself. In a game featuring some of the greatest players to ever touch a ball, it was not Iniesta, or Xavi, or Messi, or Ronaldo who made the greatest impact. It was a 19-year-old.
Whether it was his crucial interceptions, his last-man tackle on Cesc Fabregas or his late equalizing goal, Varane absolutely dominated in Madrid.
In the second leg, he fared no worse. Although he didn't have any awe-inspiring defensive moments, he did have yet another last man tackle and (surprise) another goal. Simply stunning.
When Varane was signed, Pepe said in two to three years the Frenchman would be one of the world's best centerhalves. In reality, it's taken just a year.